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‘Go fix those problems’: Why four Catholics are willing to serve in local public office 

Denver Newsroom, Oct 30, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).-  

For 26 years, Kimberly Hahn homeschooled her six children. But once her youngest reached high school, he said he did not want to be home without peers and lonely.

And so, just two weeks before the homeschool year would have started, Kimberly and her husband Scott found themselves driving their last child to a Catholic boarding school in Pennsylvania.

“When we dropped him off and got home, I said to my husband: ‘Two weeks earlier I thought I was schooling for the year...what do I do now?’”

“And all he said was, ‘Maybe it's time for politics?’”

The Catholic faith of newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has been under intense scrutiny in the weeks leading up to her nomination, and even in years prior. In 2017, during her nomination hearing for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Barrett was told by Senator Dianne Feinstein that “the dogma lives loudly” within her, “and that’s of concern.”

But devout Catholic politicians exist at all levels of government, not just at the Supreme Court or in Congress.

CNA spoke with four Catholic politicians at the state or local level about why they chose to run, and how their faith has influenced their political careers. 

Politics was a long-time interest of Hahn’s, one that was first piqued when she was 12 and served as an honorary page to her grandmother, who was a state representative in the state of Washington.

“I saw my grandmother in action. It was very inspiring,” she said. Hahn, a Catholic, is now serving her fifth year and second term as Councilwoman at Large for the city of Steubenville, Ohio, which her family has called home for 30 years. Hahn is the only council member elected by the city, while the other six members are elected by their ward.

“When it comes to Steubenville, I feel like there's only so many times you can say, ‘Well, why doesn't somebody do something about X, Y, or Z?’ Then I realized if I ran for council, I could do something about that.”

Steubenville is a small, rustbelt city with a population of roughly 18,000, located 33 miles south of Pittsburgh on the banks of the Ohio River. The city is home to Franciscan University of Steubenville, which tends to draw many faithful Catholic students. Hahn said she is hoping her work on the city council will convince more faithful Catholic families to stay in Steubenville.

“I really want to help build up our community in very practical ways, so that more faith filled people want to move there and build up the community of faith,” she said.

And to do that, she added, “you need good housing, you need good roads, you need reasonable bills for water and sewer. You need a good police force. You need an active firefighting force, an ambulance service, good schools so that everybody has the option. Public, Catholic, Christian, homeschooling - all of those are great options in Steubenville.”

The hours a Steubenville city council member puts in during any given week vary incredibly - Hahn said she works anywhere between 10-50 hours per week, depending on what is happening in the city. She gets $100 a week as a stipend; it is not otherwise a paid position.

The flexibility suits Hahn, who is also an author, speaker, podcaster, mother to six and grandmother to 19.

As she spoke with CNA, she was on her way to help care for one of her newborn grandchildren. In a way, she said, she sees her role as a councilwoman as an extension of her motherhood.

“It's all about public service. It is not about fame and it's not about money,” she said.

“Really, for me, it's an extension of my motherhood, not in the sense of coddling, not in the sense of taking people's responsibility on myself, but in how I communicate the love of Christ in a practical way by helping people with their water bills and their sewer bills and having their streets be cleaner and that kind of thing.”

During her campaign, she knocked on 7,000 doors. She talked to everyone she could across the aisle. “And some people said ‘Well, I’m a lifelong Democrat.’ And I said, ‘That's okay, because if I get elected, I'm still going to represent you. What are your concerns?’”

One of the primary functions of a city council is to manage the city’s finances.

“Two years ago, for the first time in probably more than 20 years, we balanced the budget in the black,” Hahn said. They balanced in the black last year as well, and seem to be on track to do so this year, “even with all the COVID stress.”

“I love it,” she said of serving on the city council. “I find all of it fascinating. I really do. Reading about cathodic systems, about how often you should paint the inside of your water towers and what it takes to clean a digester or a plant - I actually find all of it fascinating.”

Kevin Duffy is a Catholic husband, father and freelance writer running for reelection for a second four-year term as a trustee of the Williamstown Township in Williamstown, Michigan.

“We're the legislative arm of the townships. We don't have day-to-day responsibilities, in terms of operation of township government, but we serve as a voice for constituents and a representative of the constituents. It's like a smaller version of state legislature or Congress,” he told CNA.

The duties of a township trustee are not too time-consuming, he said.  “It's one or two meetings a month, depending on what time of year it is,” he said. Sometimes it’s more, like during budget review. He receives a yearly stipend of about $5,000 for the position.

Before he ran for a township position, Duffy served in an appointed position on his county Parks and Recreation commission.

After an upbringing that “wasn’t great,” Duffy said he wanted to live a life of fulfillment and purpose for himself and for his family. His job pays the bills, he said, but he finds meaning and purpose in life outside of work - in spending time with his wife and children, in service to the Church, and in serving his community.

“It was...a desire to have an impact in my community. Your local government structure, like your school board or your city council, or in my case, our township board, has more of an impact on what happens in your everyday life than anything that happens beyond that,” he said.

A stark example of that in American life right now has been how each state has responded differently to the coronavirus pandemic, he noted.

“The decisions of our state government have a huge impact, at least here in Michigan, on how our everyday life is during this pandemic.”

Duffy said he is proud that as a township trustee, he helped bring back bus services to Northeast Ingham County.

“(O)ur local public transportation authority decided to cut service to those of us here (in) Northeast Ingham County,” he said.

“But there were people that did depend on it. There were folks that needed that to get downtown for jobs, or they needed that to get to their doctor's appointments or whatever it may be,” he said.

“So, I wrote an op-ed and submitted to the Lansing State Journal and it got published.”

Within four or five months, transportation authorities had restored at least some of the bus services to the area.

“That was something I was proud of,” he said. “That was the one spot where I was able to help out a little bit.”

When it comes to Catholics being involved in civic life, Duffy said he would point them to Pope St. John Paul II’s oft-repeated phrase, “Be not afraid.”

“It can be a little scary, but we have a responsibility, and we as Catholics understand the idea of the common good, the need to serve everybody,” he said.

“We're not called to be Republicans. We're not called to be Democrats. We're not called to be Libertarian. We're called to be Christian, and we're called to be servants of our fellow man, and to perpetuate the common good. I think that's something that we need to get back to.”

Carlos Santamaria is a lifelong Catholic who is running for a state senate position for California's 3rd district.

Santamaria had previously served as the vice chair for the Napa County Republican Party, but he said he felt called to do more after attending a leadership conference in Jerusalem last November.

“I spent over a week in the Holy City. And if that isn’t life changing, I don’t know what is,” he told CNA.

He decided to run for state senate, “especially when I came back and I found there were seven Democrats (in the state legislature) that were running unopposed.”

“I just wanted to represent my district. It was a calling. And I see so many anti-religious, anti-Catholic, anti-life (politicians),” he said, that he wanted to help bring about change.

One particular area of focus for Santamaria’s campaign is helping the homeless population. He plans “to use workforce development and career technical education to provide lifelong jobs and permanent housing” to people experiencing homelessness, and “to reintroduce these individuals into society before they go off the cliff into extreme, episodic homelessness, or chronic homelessness,” he said. 

He also wants to bolster small businesses, particularly those that are experiencing significant losses due to coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions.

“The current unnecessary Lock Down of our economy and small businesses has devastated many businesses and the lives of families in California,” Santamaria’s website says. “We need leadership that understands and supports small business rather than destroy them.”

Santamaria said he is strongly pro-life and pro-family, and that he plans on standing up for those issues, should he be elected.

“God put me here for a reason. If I can't express my feelings about life and about the sanctity and the value of life, then I'm not using my talents and this platform the way I should,” he said.

Senator Susan Wagle has been president of the Kansas State Senate for the past eight years, and she was the first woman to hold the post. She has served in positions in both the state house and senate for the past 30 years.

A Catholic convert, Wagle joined the Catholic Church the same year she was first elected to the Kansas House - in 1991.

Wagle said she had been a teacher and a business owner who had not considered running for political office, but both her business colleagues and her husband kept telling her that she would make a great legislator.

There were important issues at the time, Wagle said, including rapidly increasing property taxes. She said she actually tried to convince other people she knew to run for office at the time, but nobody wanted to sacrifice the time.

The thing that kept Wagle up at night was not property taxes, but the late-term abortion clinic in her hometown of Wichita.

“When I'd lay my head down on that pillow at night, I could actually hear those babies cry from the Tiller clinic down the street,” she said.

“I could just hear the slaughter down the street in my mind, and I thought, ‘that has to stop.’”

George Tiller was the abortion doctor at the clinic, and it was one of the only clinics in the world at the time that was performing third trimester, post-viability abortions.

Wagle said she had unwittingly walked into the clinic years prior, earlier in her marriage when she thought she was pregnant. The clinic advertised free pregnancy tests, and these were the days before over-the-counter tests.

As she waited for her test results, she was counseled to get an abortion. Wagle said she noticed a world map on the wall that had yellow pins all over it. When she asked what the pins were for, she was told that they represented the women from all over the world that the clinic had come to the clinic.

“And as years later, I learned that the reason people were traveling here from around the world was because other countries didn't allow third trimester abortion,” Wagle said.

Wagle was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1991. By 1997, Wagle had helped to pass the Women’s Right to Know Act, which was the first law regulating abortion in the state.

“I carried it. We had a pro-choice house and pro-choice Senate. So I was able to advocate that we need informed consent for a late term abortion, that women should be informed about fetal development, about the procedure. And so I passed the first pro-life bill in the state of Kansas,” she said.

“And since then, we've passed more regulations. But when I went into the legislature, the money from the abortion industry financed most of the legislators. So it was a challenge.”

Looking back on her years of service, Wagle said she believes it was a calling from God, and that she has learned much about how to get along with many different people of all backgrounds.

“I've learned our faith is based on our relationship with God, and then we bring it to those who surround us,” she said.

“I've learned how to work with people who are very different than me, who have different experiences, different perspectives. And you learn how to be very relational and very kind and very optimistic about the founding principles that we’re based on and combined with the faith that we are a people created by God,” she said.

“And there's no better founding documents in all the world that have allowed the progress and the development of the human spirit than America,” she added.

Wagle, like Justice Barrett, is the mother of seven children - four of her own, and three of her husbands from a previous marriage. She said she sees Barrett as a woman of faith who is living up to her full potential.

“Amy is reaching her full potential. She's a mom, she's adopted children, she's pursued a career, and she has made it very clear that she will interpret the law and not write new laws. And she's the perfect advocate and voice for this moment in history,” she said, “...and we've seen where her faith is not a conflict, but that her faith makes her a very strong, successful woman.”

Wagle said she continuously relied on her own faith throughout her time in office. She said while she set aside specific times for prayer, she would also pray silently during meetings or legislative sessions. Prayers like “Lord, I need you right now” or “Please speak through me” or “Please help me to articulate this thought.”

“It was a constant reaching out for assistance,” she said.

Wagle encouraged Catholics who feel called to serve in public office to pursue that path, if they see changes that need to be made and if the right doors are being opened.

“Don't hide from public office. We need people who have our values in public office as our advocates. So I would say pursue the path and listen to that still, small voice that says, ‘Go fix those problems.’”


Deacon ordained in Spanish diocese after a decade of no ordinations

Segovia, Spain, Oct 30, 2020 / 12:50 am (CNA).- After 10 years without an ordination, the Diocese of Segovia in Spain celebrated the diaconal ordination of Álvaro Marín, a 24-year-old seminarian last Sunday.

The new deacon received formation in theology at the University of Avila and the Pontifical University of Salamanca.

“The Church of Segovia rejoices at this diaconal ordination,” said Diocesan Bishop César Franco. “Give thanks to God for the new deacon, for his family that raised him in the faith, Saint Teresa parish where he discovered his vocation, and for the seminary where he has matured up to this moment. A vocation is an immense gift.”

“In these times when priestly vocations are a rare and precious commodity, Álvaro looks to his new state with joy and responsibility, knowing that the Lord has always guided his path with a firm hand,” the bishop said.

In an interview with the COPE Segovia network, Marín said that he began to feel his vocation at the age of 15.

“I saw that this restlessness wasn’t going away, and I began to speak with the pastor at St. Teresa parish, and he took me to the gatherings at the minor seminary, and I began to discern my vocation,” the seminarian said.

“It was a long process, a tug of war, but we began to discern that God had put this vocation in me and that I wanted to follow it and respond to him.”

Marín said one of the most important moments in the discovery of his vocation was the death of his father, something that he described as “a blow that made me consider my vocation more thoughtfully and prompted me to say ‘yes’ to the Lord and enter the seminary.”

The young deacon has set his sights on next year, when he will finally be ordained a priest to serve God. He said his great desire that it be “without a doubt, in my diocese of Segovia.”

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


Black Nazarene procession in Philippines canceled over coronavirus

CNA Staff, Oct 29, 2020 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Due to the coronavirus pandemic, civil and ecclesial authorities in the Philippines have agreed to cancel the Black Nazarene celebration in 2021, which gathers millions of churchgoers in Manila each January.

Known as the traslacion, the 19-hour procession through the streets of Manila takes place each year on Jan. 9. Millions of pilgrims take part in the 7-kilometer procession.

The statue of the Black Nazarene is a kneeling Christ cloaked in a maroon robe and crowned with thorns. The life-sized statue bears a cross.

It was brought to the Philippines by Augustinian missionary priests in 1606. The statue is believed to have acquired its black color after being partially burnt when the ship carrying it caught fire on a voyage from Mexico.

Since then it has survived fires that destroyed its host church twice, two earthquakes, floods from numerous typhoons and bombings during World War II. The image is normally enshrined in Manila’s Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, popularly known as the Quiapo Church. Many miracles have been reported in connection with veneration of the statue.

Msgr. Hernando Coronel, rector of Quiapo Church, has said the Black Nazarene will be displayed on the church’s balcony from two weeks before the feast, and that instead of the procession, pilgrims may instead gather for prayer and to view the image at a safe distance.

“I want to remind the faithful that their petitions will still be heard even if they don’t get to touch the image,” the priest added.

Prior to the pandemic, Quiapo Church was almost open 24 hours, holding continuous Masses and healing services during the day and housing homeless people at night. Every year, up to 18 million devotees have taken part in the annual procession and the other festivities.

The procession is deeply beloved in the country, but is also controversial. Barefoot pilgrims eager to touch the Black Nazarene statue shove and climb over one another, resulting each year in injuries and sometimes deaths.

Controversy continues over Scotland's hate crime bill

CNA Staff, Oct 29, 2020 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- Amid a contentious debate in Scotland over a proposed hate crimes law, which the Catholic bishops of the country oppose, a cabinet minister this week suggested that the law could apply to speech uttered within a private dwelling if the speaker intends to stir up hatred.

The Scottish government introduced the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill April 23 in response to an independent review of hate crime laws led by Alastair Campbell, Lord Bracadale, a retired judge. The government argues the bill modernizes, consolidates, and extends existing hate crime legislation. It also abolishes the offence of blasphemy.

The proposed legislation creates a new crime of stirring up hatred against any of the protected groups covered by the bill, which include race, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity.

During an Oct. 27 hearing, a Scottish parliament member questioned Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf about whether the bill might include a defense for speech uttered in the privacy of one’s home, a so-called “dwelling defense.”

"My concern with the dwelling a parliament, [and] even as a society, are we comfortable with giving a defense in law to somebody whose behavior is threatening or abusive— as an example, that is intentionally stirring up hatred against Muslims— are we saying that that is justified because it is in the home?" Yousaf replied. 

"Are we saying that as a society we are comfortable with no criminal sanctions being applied to people because that has been done in the confines of their dwelling? Whereas if they stepped out into the street outside of the house, then that would be a criminal offense? I'm just not convinced as a point of policy or principle that it is one that I agree with, but I will continue to keep an open mind."

Conservative MSP Adam Tompkins subsequently questioned Yousaf on how you can commit an "offence of public order" in private, to which Yousaf replied that if the intent to stir up hatred is present in a private dwelling, then that could deserve criminal sanction.

Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell wrote in a letter earlier this month that “we can only truly respect other people’s point of view if we first allow them to express it.”

“In the hope that we will remain a country, where constructive dialogue flourishes, the Catholic Church will continue to argue for further change to this legislation to include; more equitable and robust freedom of expression provisions; greater clarity around the definitions of ‘hatred’, ‘abusive’ and ‘insulting’ which remain precariously vague and urge consideration be given to appropriate defenses which reflect the change to intent only,” Toal wrote Oct. 13.

The bill has proven controversial with the Scottish public. In the 12 week consultation period after the bill’s introduction, members of the public made nearly 2,000 submissions to the Scottish Parliament.

On Sept. 23, Yousaf told the Scottish Parliament that the bill would now only cover offences where the stirring up of hatred is intentional, the BBC reported.

The bill originally provided for penalties for “stirring up hatred” “with the intention” of doing so, or “where it is a likely consequence that hatred will be stirred up against such a group.”

In a statement issued July 29, the Catholic bishops of Scotland argued that the bill could lead to censorship of Catholic teaching.

The Scottish bishops stated that the bill “creates an offense of possessing inflammatory material which, if taken with the low threshold contained therein, could render material such as the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other texts such as Bishops’ Conference of Scotland submissions to government consultations, as being inflammatory under the new provision.”

The bishops also noted that pronouncements of Catholic teaching on sex and gender “might be perceived by others as an abuse of their own, personal worldview and likely to stir up hatred.”

In their submission, the bishops said they had no objection to the proposal to abolish the common law of blasphemy, which has not been prosecuted in Scotland for more than 175 years. But the bishops said they were concerned the bill could feed “cancel culture.”

“The growth of what some describe as the ‘cancel culture’— hunting down those who disagree with prominent orthodoxies with the intention to expunge the non-compliant from public discourse and with callous disregard for their livelihoods— is deeply concerning,” they wrote.

The original text of the bill includes a provision meant to protect religious freedom of expression, stating that “behaviour or material is not to be taken to be threatening or abusive solely on the basis that it involves or includes...discussion or criticism of...religion, whether religions generally or a particular religion...religious beliefs or practices...proselytising, or...urging of persons to cease practising their religions.”

Yousaf also stated during the Oct. 27 hearing that he would be open to including freedom of speech protections to cover all of the protected categories in the bill; currently it only includes protections for certain statements about religion and about sexual orientation.

The Parliament’s Justice Committee is reviewing the 2,000 public comments received and is currently hearing testimony. The committee will aim to complete its Stage 1 report by Dec. 18, though the date could be pushed back, the BBC reported.

Scotland has experienced significant sectarian division since the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, which led to the formation of the Church of Scotland, an ecclesial community in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition which is the country's largest religious community.

Sectarianism and crimes motivated by anti-Catholicism have been on the rise in Scotland in recent years, and Catholics in Scotland are increasingly concerned that the government could consider their faith “hate speech,” according to local reports.

Italian cardinal tests positive for COVID-19

Rome Newsroom, Oct 29, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Bassetti, the archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve, is 78 years old. His condition is being closely monitored, according to a statement released by the bishops’ conference Oct. 28.

“The cardinal lives this moment with faith, hope, and courage,” the bishops’ conference said, noting that those who had been in contact with the cardinal were being tested.

Bassetti is the fourth cardinal to test positive for the coronavirus this year. In September, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the head of the Vatican’s evangelization congregation, tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling to the Philippines. The Archdiocese of Manila announced that Tagle had recovered on Sept. 23.

Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso and Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, both tested positive and recovered from COVID-19 in March.

Europe is currently experiencing a second wave of coronavirus cases which has led France to reimpose a nationwide lockdown and Germany to close all bars and restaurants for a month.

Italy has documented 156,215 new cases within the past week, according to the Ministry of Health. On Oct. 25, the Italian government imposed new restrictions requiring all restaurants and bars to close at 6 p.m., while closing all gyms, theaters, cinemas, and concert halls.

Vatican City has also been affected, with 13 Swiss Guards testing positive for COVID-19 in October. A resident of Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican hotel where Pope Francis lives, tested positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 17 and was placed in isolation.

Italy was one of Europe’s worst-hit countries during the first wave of the coronavirus. More than 689,766 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 37,905 have died in Italy as of Oct. 28.

The Italian health ministry said Wednesday that the country had recorded 24,991 new cases over 24 hours -- a new daily record. Some 276,457 people are currently confirmed positive with the virus in Italy, with 27,946 of those in the Lazio region, which includes Rome.

Pope Francis’ general audience again moves behind closed doors

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- After nine weeks of public general audiences, Pope Francis’ weekly gathering will again take place behind closed doors, the Vatican said Thursday.

The decision to move back to a livestream-only format was made after at least one person in attendance at the pope’s Oct. 21 audience was discovered to have been positive for COVID-19, according to the Vatican.

Starting Wednesday, Nov. 4, Francis will give his general audience catechesis and greetings via live video from his study in the Apostolic Palace, “in order to avoid any future health risks for participants.”

From Sept. 2, members of the public were permitted again to attend his weekly audience at the Vatican, after a more than six-month break.

He had been livestreaming the Wednesday audience from his study since March, when the coronavirus outbreak led Italy and other countries to impose lockdowns to slow down the virus’ spread.

Unlike general audiences before the COVID-19 pandemic, which were held in the public square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, the first meetings back with the public were held in a smaller interior courtyard of the Vatican, with a capacity for around 500 or so socially distanced and masked participants. 

At these encounters, Pope Francis sat close to attendees, many of whom he would spend a long time greeting individually before and after the event. 

In the last few weeks, the audiences have been held instead in the Vatican’s larger Pope Paul VI Audience Hall and Pope Francis has kept his distance from pilgrims.

He told participants Oct. 28 that he would be staying up on the stage and not greeting each of them as he likes to do.

“We must keep our distance, because if I come down, then a crowd forms to greet me, and this is contrary to the measures and the precautions we must take in order to face ‘Madame Covid,’ which is harmful to us,” he said.

On Oct. 21, he apologized for his distance but said it “is for your safety.”

“Instead of coming near you and shaking your hands and greeting you, we have to greet each other from a distance, but know that I am near you with my heart,” he added. 

Pope Francis has been photographed at least once wearing a protective face mask when arriving and leaving the audience in San Damaso Courtyard, but he has not worn a mask during the general audience.  

The Italian government has introduced new safety measures for the country as the number of coronavirus cases is again rising. Measures include a ban on most indoor or outdoor gatherings other than religious services, and bars and restaurants must be closed to sit-down guests from 6 p.m. onwards. 

As a city state, the Vatican has its own regulations for stemming contagion and is not subject to Italian measures.

Nice basilica terrorist attack: Who were the victims?

Rome Newsroom, Oct 29, 2020 / 12:02 pm (CNA).- This story is developing and will be updated:

Bells tolled in Catholic parishes across France in memory of the three people killed in a knife attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice Thursday morning.

This is what is known so far about the victims:

Vincent L., sacristan:

One of the victims has been identified as the sacristan of Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice, Vincent L., who was 55 years old and a father of two daughters. He had served the basilica as sacristan for 10 years.

Catholics in Nice remembered Vincent for his dedicated service to the Church. Fr. Jean-Louis Giordan, the former rector of the basilica, told Vatican News that he first hired Vincent as sacristan of the basilica a decade ago.

A person familiar with the basilica told the French daily Le Parisien: “He's not just a sacristan. He helped a lot the priest who was old. … He was the handyman. The candles were always well lit … He was very discreet and very efficient. He didn’t speak much. He acted with great humility and respect. He is the first person we thought of when we learned of the attack,”

“He was an ordinary man, in the good sense of the word: nice, open,” Fr. Gil Florini, parish priest of Saint-Pierre-d'Arène-de-Nice church, told Le Figaro.



Vincent, l’une des victimes de l’attaque du terroriste tunisien islamiste. ? #Nice06 #NiceAttack

— Damien Rieu (@DamienRieu) October 29, 2020  

A woman who came to pray:

A woman, reported by a French prosecutor to be 60 years old, who came to pray at the basilica on the morning of Oct. 29.

Le Figaro reported that she was found dead with her throat cut, “nearly beheaded,” near the holy water font inside of the basilica.

National Antiterrorist Prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said she died by “a very deep throat of the order of a decapitation.”

A mother:

A third victim, whom French media have identified as a 44-year old mother, was attacked inside the church and is said to have taken refuge in a nearby cafe, where she died from stab wounds. According to the French television news channel BFMTV, a witness heard her say, “Tell my family that I love them,” as she died.


In addition to those killed in the attack, police report that others were injured in the basilica.

Police arrest perpetrator:

French police say they arrested the perpetrator, who has been identified as Brahim Aouissaoui, 21, who reportedly arrived in late September, first at the Italian island of Lampedusa, and then traveling to France. Aouissaoui is reported to have been taken to the hospital by police with a gunshot wound.



US bishops join Pope Francis in prayer and mourning after Nice attack

CNA Staff, Oct 29, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- U.S. Catholic bishops joined Pope Francis in mourning a deadly attack at a basilica in Nice on Thursday.

“We join our prayers with Pope Francis and pray for the Catholic community in Nice, especially the families of those who have lost loved ones,” the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) stated on Thursday via Twitter. “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

On Thursday morning, an attacker with a knife killed three people in the Basilica of Notre Dame in Nice, France.


We join our prayers with #PopeFrancis and pray for the Catholic community in #Nice, especially the families of those who have lost loved ones. "Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them." #NiceAttack

— U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) October 29, 2020  

According to the French newspaper Le Figaro, an elderly woman, a sacristan, and another woman were killed in the attack; the elderly woman was found inside the church “nearly beheaded,” while the other woman died of stabbing wounds after fleeing the attack to a nearby café.  

The mayor of Nice said that the perpetrator had shouted “Allahu Akbar” during and after the attack, and was subsequently shot, injured, and arrested by police.

A Vatican spokesman on Thursday said that Pope Francis was mourning the victims and praying for them and their loved ones.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron, the USCCB vice president, tweeted that he was “deeply saddened” by the attack.

“We Catholics in southeast Michigan hold in prayer our brothers and sisters in faith and all the people of France touched by this tragedy, and first and foremost the victims and their families,” Vigneron said.

“We especially ask Our Lady of Sorrows to obtain for them the grace of uniting their sufferings to the Cross of Christ, so that even in this hour of darkness the light of his Easter victory will shine forth.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia also offered his prayers for the victims and their families. 

“In union with people of goodwill throughout the Diocese of Arlington, the people of France and around the world, I express my deep sorrow and offer fervent prayers for those impacted by the terror attack at the Notre Dame Basilica in Nice, France, this morning,” Burbidge said Thursday. 

“While violence in any form, carried out in any location, is abhorrent, we are particularly struck when attacks happen in sacred places, as sacred spaces offer refuge for the weary and serve as symbols of peace in a torn and broken world. May people of all faiths continue their call for peace as we intensify our prayers for an end to all forms of violence.”

In response to the attack, Bishop André Marceau of Nice said that all churches in Nice would be closed out of precaution. He noted that the “heinous terrorist act" occurred just weeks after a Paris school teacher was beheaded on Oct. 16. The teacher was killed reportedly after he had showed his students a cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammed.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, Vatican prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, stated on Twitter in response to Thursday’s attack that “Islamism is a monstrous fanaticism which must be fought with force and determination.” 

At least two other incidents were reported in France on Thursday, in Lyon and near Avignon. A man waving a handgun, who also made threats and shouted “Allahu Akbar,” was reportedly shot dead by police in Montfavet near Avignon. Another man armed with a long knife was reportedly arrested while trying to board a train in Lyon, according to Al Jazeera; the man had already been flagged as a threat by French intelligence.

Other U.S. leaders condemned Thursday’s attack in Nice. President Trump tweeted that “Our hearts are with the people of France.” 

Rev. Johnnie Moore, a commissioner at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, tweeted on Thursday that “No one should ever fear walking into a place of worship, ANYWHERE of ANY FAITH!”

He tweeted a video of Muslims around the world mourning the attack, noting that “The 1st people I heard from were Muslim friends who find it painful & heretical when terrorists defame God by killing in His name.”

Ashley McGuire, senior fellow for The Catholic Association, said that attacks “are a terrifying reminder that radicalism remains a grave threat to global religious liberty.”

Pompeo: China is world's 'gravest threat' to religious freedom

CNA Staff, Oct 29, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The U.S. Secretary of State on Thursday called out the Chinese Communist Party as the world’s most serious threat to religious freedom.

In a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia, Oct. 29, Mike Pompeo said that “the gravest threat to the future of religious freedom is the Chinese Communist Party’s war against the people of all faiths—Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners alike.”

Pompeo said that he recently exhorted Vatican leaders to support religious freedom in China and elsewhere. On Thursday, he asked the leaders of the overwhelmingly-Muslim Indonesia to do the same.

“And today I want to urge you,” he said, “I want you to urge the same actions I asked the Catholic Church’s leaders to do in the Vatican—we need more religious leaders to speak out on behalf of people of all faiths wherever their rights are being violated.”

Pompeo met with Indonesian leaders on the fifth day of his official trip to South Asian countries from Oct. 25-30. The secretary first visited India for a ministerial dialogue, before traveling to Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Indonesia. He will conclude his trip in Hanoi, Vietnam.

His remarks came one week after the Vatican and China renewed their provisional agreement on the ordination of bishops. The two-year agreement, first signed in September, 2018, was renewed for another two years on Oct. 22.

The deal was signed as a means of unifying the underground Church in China with the state-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. However, there have been continued reports of underground Christians facing harassment and detention for refusing to register with the state-sanctioned Church, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Defenders of the agreement say that conditions for underground Catholics could be far worse if no deal had been struck.

Critics of the agreement, including the former Bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, have said that it forced the Vatican into a damaging diplomatic silence on human rights abuses, including the detention of more than one million Uyghurs in concentration camps in the province of Xinjiang.

Pope Francis has notably not made public statements on Xinjiang, amid widespread reports of mass detention camps, forced sterilizations, forced labor, and other abuses committed against Uyghurs and other ethnic Turkic Muslims in China’s northwestern province.

“The resounding [Vatican] silence will damage the work of evangelization,” Cardinal Zen told CNA in September.

Secretary Pompeo told CNA ahead of his Vatican trip that he hoped the Church would use its “enormous amount of moral authority” to push for protection of “believers of all faiths inside of China.”

On Thursday, Pompeo pleaded with Indonesian leaders to speak out on behalf of fellow Muslims in Xinjiang.

“I know that the Chinese Communist Party has tried to convince Indonesians to look away, to look away from the torments your fellow Muslims are suffering,” Pompeo said. He said the CCP has defended its treatment of Uyghurs as part of counterterrorism or poverty alleviation efforts.

Pompeo cited credible reports of forced sterilizations, separation of families, and Muslims forced to eat pork during Ramadan. He emphasized that “there is no counterterrorism justification” for such actions.  

In Hong Kong, authorities have cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in recent months. Pompeo condemned on Thursday morning the arrest of three pro-democracy student activists by Hong Kong police.

Pakistan Catholics protest after abduction, forced marriage of 13 year-old Catholic girl

CNA Staff, Oct 29, 2020 / 10:15 am (CNA).-  

Catholics in Pakistan are protesting a judge’s decision not to intervene after a 44-year-old man allegedly kidnapped a 13-year-old Catholic girl, forced her to convert to Islam, and then married her. 

According to UCA News, Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old Catholic from Karachi was kidnapped in broad daylight Oct. 13 by Ali Azhar. Raja’s parents were informed days later by the police that their daughter had converted to Islam and had married Azhar, allegedly of her own free will. Her parents filed a police report. 

Two weeks after her abduction, on Oct. 27, the Sindh High Court ruled the marriage was valid and that Azhar would not be arrested. 

Technically, child marriage is illegal in Pakistan, but courts typically do not enforce these laws. Sharia Law, which is used in some judicial decisions in Pakistan, permits a child to be married after her first menstrual period.

Approximately 400 people protested the decision at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Karachi, and Christians in other parts of the country protested as well. 

Fr. Saleh Diego, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Karachi, condemned the court for ruling without properly investigating the circumstances. 

“Whatever happened in the court was shameful and deplorable. It was all lies that the girl was being sent to a shelter home,” said Diego. “The court, without checking or determining Arzoo’s age, ruled in favor of the abductors.”

Documentation proved that Raja was born in 2007 and is 13 years old. 

Diego said that someone of Raja’s age cannot decide to accept Islam on her own, as she “still has a lot to learn about her own religion.” 

“A 13-year-old cannot decide about her religion. She is an innocent girl whose statement should be declared null and void by the court,” he said. 

The vicar general said there was a “disturbing trend” of Catholic girls being forcibly converted to Islam. 

“Religious minorities living in Pakistan are concerned about the future of their daughters who are being converted to Islam,” he said. “But why only girls? Are our boys not good enough for religious conversion? Why are they not so easily converted?” he asked.

In February, the Sindh High Court ruled that a “marriage” between a 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped, forced to marry her abductor and convert to Islam was not a violation of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act. 

The court found that as the girl had experienced her first menstrual period, the marriage was legal.